Obama Library proposal calls for an enormous park over Chicago’s Eisenhower Expressway

Architecture Development News Unveiled Urbanism
(University of Illinois Chicago)

(University of Illinois Chicago)

A lush green park reaching over the Eisenhower Expressway. Bus rapid transit connections. Economic invigoration for the North Lawndale neighborhood.

Those are some of the visions outlined in the University of Illinois Chicago‘s proposal for the Barack Obama Presidential Library, made public Monday.

(University of Illinois Chicago)

(University of Illinois Chicago)

AECOM, Isaiah International and Morphosis consulted on the proposal, which splits its ambitious plans for the nation’s 14th presidential library across two sites: a vacant 23-acre city-owned site in North Lawndale and an institute on UIC’s Near West Side campus. The Lawndale plot is bound by Roosevelt Road and Kostner, Kildare, and Fifth avenues. Among the benefits the authors say their proposal will bring to the community—predominantly Black, with nearly half of residents below the poverty line—are a linear park and bikeway, as well as commercial development in the surrounding area.

(University of Illinois Chicago)

(University of Illinois Chicago)

UIC’s 85-page proposal invokes a history of progressive politics and urban planning in Chicago, from Daniel Burnham and Jane Addams to Walter Netsch and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The plan calls for establishing a social service center named the O-4 Institute (the O’s stand for “one world, opportunity, optimism and outreach) on UIC’s existing campus, which would serve as a hub for academic research, fellowships and activities for university students and community members alike.


In a video outlining the proposal, UIC positions its plan as a continuation of Obama’s social service, which began when he worked as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side.

“UIC offers an expansive plan that prioritizes social and economic equity. This is a rare and extraordinary opportunity: a presidential library and museum reimagined, to not only celebrate history but to make it; to preserve Barack Obama’s legacy and expand it,” reads text accompanying the proposal video.

UIC’s proposal is up against plans from Columbia University and Hawaii University. Closer to home it’s competing with the University of Chicago. UIC’s hometown rival, where Obama taught law, submitted plans for three possible sites in and around South Side parks.

You can download the full proposal here.

One proposal for a Hawaii-based Obama Presidential Library. (Allied Works Architecture)

One proposal for a Hawaii-based Obama Presidential Library. (Allied Works Architecture)

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